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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Charleston Southern University is a small Baptist university of around 3,300 students in North Charleston, SC. Tucked in the back of the small campus is Buccaneer Ballpark. The 1,500-spectator stadium is tucked into the woods with trees beyond every fence and is home to the Charleston Southern Buccaneers baseball team. Playing in the Big South, the Bucs are a Division I baseball program in the baseball-rich state of South Carolina. Buccaneer Ballpark has recently undergone multiple renovations funded in part by the city of North Charleston, most recently having lights installed in 2013. Although small and hidden away at first glance, this ballpark offers a surprisingly fan-friendly experience.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The menu here won't feature anything particularly special (although $.10 bubble gum is an interesting addition), but something about the quaint concession shed with the smell of grilled burgers and dogs wafting into the air adds a backyard feel to the park. So while cheeseburgers, hot dogs or nachos are the only real "meal" food on the menu, the fresh-off-the-grill flavor and atmosphere is redeeming in its charm. Other menu items include sunflower seeds, candy, chips and peanuts. Drink options are Gatorade and a variety of soft drinks. Pricing is beyond reasonable, with nothing on the menu exceeding $4. There are also combo options available with chips and a drink, including a hot dog combo for $4 or a cheeseburger combo for $5. Alcohol is not sold at Buccaneer Ballpark.
There's just something about a small ballpark with a cozy feel. While Buccaneer Ballpark won't be taking any awards among the best parks in baseball, it's a great place to spend a sunny weekend afternoon. You couldn't feel closer to the field than you do here. The seats start at field level, with no barrier between the fans and the field other than some netting. It feels almost like you're sitting in the dugout with the team. Another cool feature that adds to the closeness of the experience is the ability to walk right up to the dugouts behind the netting and actually see in through the gaps between bricks. You could easily stand by the dugout and hear all the conversations going on inside. Simply put, you feel like you're on the field for the game here, and the park is even small enough that you can pick up most of the on-field chatter as well. So while all the frills of a big fancy park won't greet you here, Buccaneer Ballpark offers its cozy charm all the same.
The area immediately around the stadium is the small but appealing campus, with its regal yellowish buildings and forest surroundings. The areas outside the boundaries of campus are largely residential, so there's not a lot of food or drink to be enjoyed. The campus sits somewhere between North Charleston and Summerville, so downtown areas and restaurants will be a short drive east or west on I-26. Not far further east of North Charleston is the city of Charleston, and you won't find many better places in the country for beaches, food and overall tourism. If you're looking to come to town for a game and get the full experience, downtown Charleston is the destination for hotels and restaurants galore. If you're looking to spend a little less but still have access to the campus, Summerville just to the west on I-26 is a much more affordable option.
I have to give a pretty solid rating here. You may actually see tailgaters in the parking lot, which is surprising for such a small venue. There won't be an abundance of fans in attendance, but the ones there are vocal and know the team by first name. They are also a friendly group and treat everyone like a local. There aren't as many students there as you'd expect, and it's more of an alumni feeling fan base. But all the same, it's a very local and comfortable experience largely because of the fans.
Buccaneer Ballpark is a simple park to get to. It's located just off I-26 between North Charleston and Summerville. The campus is easy to navigate, and is basically a loop around the cluster of buildings in the middle. There is an abundance of parking options either in the sports complex lot or across the street near the cluster of buildings. Even when school is in session at Charleston Southern, parking is easy, so it shouldn't be difficult at any point. The stadium itself is incredibly easy to access, and is all ground level with no stairs to get to the field. Accessible areas are field level and visible immediately as you enter the park. There's one set of restrooms behind home plate and below the bleachers. Overall, access couldn't be a whole lot simpler.
Keep in mind you're going to a small school college baseball game, and it's really hard to find a reason for this not to be a great return on investment. Parking is free, tickets are $7 and food won't cost you more than $5. You could go out to a cheap dinner for $12 or get some grilled food and catch a ball game in a cozy atmosphere for the same price. It's not going to be an elite baseball experience, but for the money you'll spend on an evening at the park, it's not going to get a whole lot more comfortable.
To be honest, I can't score up much in extras. There's not a ton of frills here, but there's a cool little nuance or two. First off, the park is completely pet-friendly, and the crowd takes advantage of that. There are quite a few regulars who bring their dogs along for the game, and this only adds to the neighborhood-like feel of a CSU game. The overall field proximity and ability to clearly hear the chatter on the field and in the dugouts is comforting to a true baseball fan, and despite the D1-level play, you'll still have the feeling of a local rec league game. Who can argue that baseball isn't supposed to be this pure and simple?
You probably aren't coming to Buccaneer Ballpark for an elite baseball experience, and it's not going to rate as one, either. But don't be scared away by the small school and unheralded team. There's a lot to be said for the purity of being this close to the diamond with a local feel that makes parks like this across the country good for the soul.
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